Category Archives: Health & Safety

Help for “Quarantine Fatigue”

by Kristin Cofield, Family Engagement Specialist

After two months of social distance and stay-at-home orders, many people may experience physical and emotional drain.  As our awareness about COVID-19 heightened, we went into crisis mode.  There was a lot of anxiety, panic, fear, and a need to make quick decisions for the best interest of our families and those we love.  It is difficult and unhealthy to maintain a state of crisis.  Eventually, reality sets in, and our mind will adapt to our current environment or situation. 

Even for those of us who may have welcomed the break in extended family obligations and an over-scheduled calendar, we still miss and crave the human connections we enjoyed. We are social creatures designed to interact with others. 

Now, a whole new type of uncertainty is creeping in as we reopen and return to some previous activities.  You may feel overwhelmed and stressed by the many unanswered questions and the unpredictability of our state. You are most likely feeling the effects of quarantine fatigue if you have felt this way:

  • Irritable or feeling on edge
  • Stressed, anxious, or having racing thoughts
  • Eating more or eating less
  • Unable to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Unmotivated or less productive

May is Mental Health Month, which is a great reminder about how essential it is to monitor and take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  Everyone reacts differently in a crisis.  Living through a pandemic is stressful and may cause your feelings to change over time.  If distress impacts your daily life for several weeks, consider seeking support.  If you or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed or showing signs of distress, consider talking to someone about your concerns and feelings.  Looking for a place to start? Here’s just a sampling of licensed counselors able to support you:

Parents Need Love Too: A Guide to Self-Care

by Kristin Cofield, Family Engagement Specialist

Being a parent has never been easy, but we all know in this age of social distancing and COVID-19, it’s only gotten harder. Many of us are experiencing the current events personally. You may have loved ones suffering from the coronavirus. You may have lost a job or financial stability. You are likely juggling many priorities at once, with children at home doing distance learning or while working remotely.

When your mind is racing with thoughts of what can – or should – happen next, understand you are not alone.  We all are in this together.  We all feel the uncertainty, stress, and anxiety regarding what is to come.   During this challenging time, it is essential to prioritize your mental health. 

Self-care is not selfish.  Mental wellness is paramount to how you perceive and cope with stress.  After several weeks of social distance and quarantine, you may feel like you are riding a never-ending emotional roller coaster.  Being intentional about your mental health is in your best interest and benefits your entire family.  The following tips suggest ways to implement self-care into your daily routine. 

Make time for yourself.

It is okay to take a break to recharge and reset.  A shower, bath, or walk in your neighborhood allows time to release stressful energy.  Start with 15 to 30 minutes.  Hey, some time is better than no time!  Consider adding, “Be By Myself” time to your daily schedule.  You can encourage children to participate by reading, writing, resting, or engaging in activities that do not require your help. 

Make healthy choices.

It is easy to slip into unhealthy habits.  Maybe it feels good at the moment to binge-watch Netflix or Disney Plus while eating cookies-n-cream ice-cream and Doritos! To prevent long term health consequences, Dr. Jill Emanuele, a clinical psychologist from the Child Mind Institute, recommends eating properly, getting enough sleep, and including physical activity in your daily routine.  Now, this is not the time to pressure yourself to achieve Beach Body results! However, be mindful of how you are treating your body. 

You can involve your little ones in these routines as well. Spend family time cooking a healthy meal. Have a dance party in your living room. If you don’t have one already, create a soothing bedtime routine.

Be realistic.

Set realistic expectations and give yourself grace if you do not meet them.  COVID-19 turned the world upside down in a short amount of time.  You and your family are learning how to adjust and conquer these abrupt changes the best way you can. Whether you are single, married with children, a teenager, or a senior, it is difficult to comprehend the dramatic changes facing the world today.  Clinical psychologist, Dr. David Anderson states: “Perfectionism and coronavirus don’t mix.  Practice forgiveness, self-compassion, and cut yourself some slack.” 

Set boundaries.

Of course, you want to be well informed regarding COVID-19 updates.  To reduce stress, consider limiting your news intake, including social media.  Set boundaries or emotionally distance yourself from extended family and friends who are prone to send messages provoked with anxiety and fear.  Setting boundaries is not about hurting other people but about acknowledging your needs and being kind to yourself.

Reconnect with things you enjoy.

Work, school, family responsibilities, and extra-curricular activities may have left you with little time to engage in personal hobbies and interests.  Consider this enforced time as divine intervention to reconnect to the things you like to do but have been too busy to begin.  What about that project you planned to start last spring?  Or the new skill you want to learn but pushed aside due to a lack of time and commitment?  Let’s not forget the importance of building stronger family relationships during this time.  Remember, children are experiencing anxiety and stress as well.  They depend on you to be their safe place right now.  The project may be self-care for you but can develop into cherished memories with your family. 

To cope with stress in a healthy manner, make an effort to implement the five tips described above into your daily routine. These coping strategies are effective ways to promote mental wellness and reduce stress.  Remember, self-care is not a luxury or a needless practice!  Your body and mind need your time and attention more than ever.  Being kind to yourself does not mean you have abandoned the people who love and need you.  When you put your oxygen mask on first by practicing self-care, you have a greater emotional ability to care for others.   

Join us for our weekly Parent Mental Wellness online series!

Licensed marriage and family health therapist Abram Sinn joins us for these informal but important weekly discussions via Zoom. We invite parents (married or single), grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents, or anyone integral in raising children to ask questions, comment, or just listen in. Click each link below to register.

What are you doing to practice self-care? Tell us in the comments below!

References

Jacobson, R., & Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). Self-Care in the Time of Coronavirus. Retrieved April 3, 2020,.

Rylander, A. (2016). Soul 7: Poetry 4 the Soul The Red Diaries. California.

Help for Local “Front Line” Child Care Professionals

Updated as of May 19, 2020.

There’s been so much talk about the “front line” during the COVID-19 pandemic: medical professionals, emergency personnel, grocery workers. But, we know that there are so many child care programs who are still open and still providing quality care for the children of those going in to work every day. We strongly believe you are front line and essential too!

These are unusual times and create unusual circumstances. Your needs are different from what they were a month ago. Or, the unfulfilled needs you had before are now amplified to a critical point. There are so many businesses and agencies looking for a way to help – connect with some of these Central Indiana resources below! Are you a business or service that can help? Let us know!

Supplies and materials

ACA Cleaning Supply Vendors: A good comprehensive list of where you might start to find cleaning supplies.

Indiana Diaper Bank Partners: If you have a family in need of diapers, you can refer them to one of Indiana Diaper Bank’s distributing partners.

Health and sanitation procedures

COVID-19 Testing through Optum: If you have symptoms, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or in a high risk group, many options are available across Central Indiana for FREE testing.

Indiana State Department of Health: Answers to FAQs about COVID-19, specifically related to child care programs.

CDC Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open: Information on preparedness and planning, social distancing, cleaning, interactions with families, and more.

Financial and business support

Indy Chamber Rapid Response Hub: Information on local resources for loans, finding employees, legal support, and more.

SCORE Business Mentoring: Get FREE guidance from an experienced business professional in how to move forward with your program in these trying times.

KHWPRW: Resource bank for Central Indiana, including links to a number of grants and loans.

General support

Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning: The state of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration has all hands on deck to ensure you have the resources you need for your child care program and to support your familes and children.

Child Care Aware of America: National resource for business supports, how to connect with families, policies affecting your program, and more.

Afterschool Alliance: Answers to FAQs for those providing care to school agers, including guidance on precautions, meals, staff, family support, and more.

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COVID-19: Your resource for resources

You may feel like the world we’re living in has gone wild- it’s definitely not the same Central Indiana we were living in a few weeks ago. It can be overwhelming to digest all of the ever-changing news about COVID-19, whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a child care administrator, a business owner, or a supporter of early care and education.

We may not have all the answers, but we know a lot of smart people and caring organizations who do.  As you’re navigating these new changes, we recommend consulting some of these resources.

FOR EVERYONE

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Get the latest recommendations for prevention and resources if you think you are sick.

Anthem Community Resource Link: Type in your zip code and get hundreds of resources, based on your needs. Categories include food, housing, health, work, legal, money, and more!

Child Care Aware of America: The latest Coronavirus news and resources for Child Care Professionals, Families and Policymakers.

FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

WFYI At-Home: Guides and links for helping your little one continue their educational journey from home.

Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY): Making Connections During Social Distancing: This page offers resources such as how to keep your kids busy and informed, food and employment assistance resources, and mental health resources.

Family Promise of Hendricks County: Contact Family Promise if you are a Hendricks County resident and need emergency assistance with items such as utilities, food, phones, or internet.

Good Samaritan Network: Hamilton County’s collaborative/network of non-profits.

FOR CHILD CARE PROVIDERS AND TEACHERS

Help for Local “Front Line” Child Care Professionals: Check out recent blog post, specifically for child care programs currently in operation.

Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning (OECOSL): The state of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration has all hands on deck to ensure you have the resources you need for your child care program and to support your familes and children. Some highlights include:

FOR BUSINESSES

IndyChamber: Rapid Response Hub – Resources and FAQs for small business owners, including child care programs.

Indiana Small Business Development Center – Resources for funding, counseling, and advising on your small business or child care.

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Autism Awareness: Putting Children First

by Sarah Bailey, Inclusion Specialist

The scarf lies on top of my dresser all year long. Every so often, I pick it up, look at it, and lay it back down. The bright, primary colors dance around the well-known puzzle pieces.

The scarf reminds me of Margaret, the first child with autism that I worked with. I learned so much from that sweet girl and her therapist. They say that children teach us more than we ever teach them, and with Margaret, that was the truth. She taught me patience. She taught me how to follow-through. She taught me why inclusion is important and how it benefits everyone. My other students would fight over who got to work in a small group with Margaret each day. They learned empathy and compassion. She learned how to make friends. She learned how to ask to play. They helped her work on peer interaction, while they learned it themselves.

I wear the scarf every year as a reminder to me about the 1 in 68 children in the United States that have autism.  According to the TACA website, “More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined.”

WHAT DO THE PUZZLE PIECES REPRESENT?

The background of the puzzle piece goes back to 1963. A parent and board member of the National Autistic Society, Gerald Gasson, created the puzzle believing that people with autism suffered from a ‘puzzling’ condition. Each puzzle piece we see may be different in some way, just like each person with autism is different. It represents the diversity of each person with autism. While not everyone agrees, people have come to view the puzzle piece as a symbol for autism and autism awareness.

PERSON-FIRST LANGUAGE

The language we use to describe people with special needs has really changed over the years. Back in the 1960s, when the puzzle piece was first introduced, people referred to those developmental disabilities as mentally handicapped. Society thought of children with autism as psychotic.  Doctors blamed autism on “refrigerator” parents, who seemed to lack parental warmth.

We now are beginning to understand the power of words. Person-First Language is about respect. We want to look first at the person, not his or her disability. We do not say “He is cancerous.” We say, “He HAS cancer.” It is about seeing the person before we see what condition he might have. Instead of saying, “Joe is autistic,” you can say, “Joe has autism.” It is something he has, not something he is. A person is not handicapped or disabled. She HAS a disability.

AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH: AUTISM FACTS

We commemorate Autism Awareness Month in April each year. 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. Boys are diagnosed four times as often as girls.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder. Autism is a developmental disability, characterized by difficulties in communication, social interactions, and play skills. There is no cure for autism, but, through early intervention and treatment, one can improve or overcome the symptoms related to autism.

AUTISM RESOURCES

The Autism Puzzle Piece: A Symbol That’s Going To Stay Or Go?
Autism Society: National Autism Awareness Month
National Autism Association: Autism Facts
Talk About Curing Autism: Latest Autism Statistics

What to do when the flu hits your program

by Shannon Ford, Professional Development Coordinator

You’ve done everything right to prepare for flu season this year in your child care program. Your staff all got their flu shots. All of your children’s vaccination records are up-to-date. You’ve been sanitizing like crazy. Yet – bam! – the flu is here! What do you do next?

BE AWARE OF THE SYMPTOMS

Flu is a tough bug to figure out sometimes. Many symptoms – like coughing, stuffy nose, and sore throat – can mimic the common cold. Other symptoms – like a fever – sometimes, but not always, present themselves.

Emergency warning signs also appear differently in children than they do in adults. If you notice any of the following, get medical help right away1:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash
  • Infants who are unable to eat, have no tears when crying, or have significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

And, remember – you should be aware of symptoms in adults that come in contact with the children as well. Family members, staff, and other visitors are also likely to spread the virus.

WHEN SHOULD I SEND A CHILD HOME?

We’re all used to sniffles and sneezes and snotty noses. However, if a child has the symptoms of flu (ex. fever) AND these respiratory symptoms during flu season, you should exclude him or her from care2. Because the flu is so easily transmitted through little coughs and sneezes, this is one of the most common ways it spreads.

Sometimes, a little guy or girl is just too puny to do what everyone else in the class is doing. If he or she requires so much additional care from staff that the teacher isn’t able to attend to others, it’s time to consider a call home to Mom or Dad.

HOW SHOULD I MAKE FAMILIES AWARE WHEN SOMEONE IN MY PROGRAM HAS THE FLU?

Your first step is always to make the child’s parent or guardian aware when you suspect that he or she has the flu.

If a doctor or nurse practitioner diagnoses two or more children or staff members with the influenza virus,  Licensing3 requires directors to immediately notify all family members and staff that they have been exposed. To do this, you can post on the door or another conspicuous place something like, “Cases of Influenza have been diagnosed in someone who has been in this building.”  Or, you may give a personal note to each parent or staff member.

Have information pamphlets available on hand should family members or staff have additional questions. See the American Academy of Pediatrics website for suggestions.

WHAT ARE MY OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN CHILDREN OR STAFF ARE DIAGNOSED WITH THE FLU?

Directors’ jobs aren’t done when families and staff are notified. They also need to ensure that they are meeting all the licensing requirements3 to report the incidents of flu as necessary. Keep in mind that you must complete AT LEAST one of the following tasks. Depending on the situation, it may be beneficial for you to reach out to more than one resource for guidance.

  • Consult your local health department.
  • Call your licensing consultant.

 

It essentially all boils down to this sobering fact; the health and safety of little people are in your hands. Be aware, follow through, and do what’s in the best interest of the children in your care.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Preventing Childhood Obesity

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist

As a parent in today’s hurry-up society, I recognize how easy it can be to succumb to unhealthy habits that are responsible for creating an overweight child.  For the sake of convenience and budget, we all have all been guilty of these habits. My vice? Swinging by the closest fast food joint when the evening hours fade away after extracurricular events or running errands. At some point in time, most of us have relied on a computer screen to keep a child occupied. It sure makes things easier to handle issues, cook dinner, or just sit down and take a deep breath.

If we take time to look at the potential long term effects, it can help families become empowered to make small changes that will make big impacts.

OBESITY IS TRENDING UPWARD

Statistics says that nearly 1 in 3, or over 30% of Hoosiers are overweight or obese*. Unfortunately, this trend is getting worse, and the numbers are increasing each year.  What can you do to make sure that your family is not among these statistics?

IDEAS TO KEEP YOUR KIDS ON TRACK

Childhood presents an opportunity to instill life- long healthy habits with regards to physical activity and healthy eating. I find these some ideas helpful:

  • Plan meals for the week.
  • Pack healthy snacks for kids in between meals on busy days.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Set aside time for physical activity.

Staying active and eating healthy is the key to helping combat this ever growing problem.

WALK THE WALK AND TALK THE TALK

Do your child and yourself a favor. Role model behaviors. Incorporate healthy behaviors as often as you can. Eat right. Keep moving. Little changes will render big gains.

OTHER RESOURCES

For more tips, check out these resources:

Cover image by Flickr user University of Delaware Alumni Relations, Creative Commons license.

*Harper, Jake. “Report: Nearly 1 In 3 Hoosiers Obese.” WFYI Public Media, 21 Sept. 2015, www.wfyi.org/news/articles/report-nearly-1-in-3-hoosiers-obese. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

Easing Children’s Fears during Emergencies

by Katherine Darby, Infant/Toddler Specialist

We never stop worrying about our kids, and we work hard to keep them from harm. Severe weather and emergency drills are unexpected and unstoppable things that can all be very scary for young children. Children become afraid when things happen that are out of their control, when they don’t understand, and when something unexpected occurs.  By preparing children for these events, we can help ease their fears.

KEEP CALM

Be careful that you are not fueling a child’s fears. If you panic, they will panic too. It is important for you to remain calm during unexpected situations, because your children will be looking to you for guidance. The best way to remain as calm as possible is to prepare and practice.

PRACTICE AND PREPARE

We do fire drills so we know where to go if there is a fire. We practice tornado drills so we know where to go to keep us safe. Have practice drills in case the power goes out. Where can your child find a flash light? This practice helps to prepare not just the children, but us adults as well. Having a plan, being informed, and knowing what to expect is extremely beneficial when seconds count.

Prepare children as to what they should expect using language they understand. Talk about what is happening and why it happens. This is a great way to help ease anxiety and fears about the unexpected because it is no longer a mysterious thing.

“The fire alarm will flash a very bright light and make a very loud noise; it might hurt your ears.”

“The alarm has to be loud so we know to leave the building to stay safe.”

“When we see the bright lightening, there may be a big BOOM from thunder.”

Doing research together is another way to help a young child to better understand what is happening and what to expect. Get books about thunder from the library, watch videos about storms on YouTube, watch rain showers from the window. Do make sure any materials you get are developmentally appropriate for your child.

BE UNDERSTANDING

Let your child know it is okay to be scared and that you are there to keep them safe. You may have a child who was never fearful of loud sounds and suddenly he is terrified at the first clap of thunder and flash of lightening. Be understanding of your children’s fears and take them seriously. It may seem silly or nothing to worry about to you, but, to the child, it is a real and scary thing. Ask a child what they need from you to help calm them.

Every child deals with unexpected events in their own way. It is important to know and respecting a child’s feelings while teaching them appropriate ways they can cope.

How to Combat Provider Stress and Burnout

by Vicki Lehman, Community Engagement Specialist

Life can be stressful! The life of an early childhood teacher can be even more stressful. We are in a profession of caregivers, so it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. I know how hard and stressful your job can be – I was a preschool teacher for 7 years in a 4/5 Pre-K classroom.

When I was in the classroom, something that really helped me was meditation. I would meditate when I got home from work. There are tons of guided meditations on YouTube you should check out. I know it may seem silly the first few times, but I found that it seriously worked for me. Yoga is great for relaxation too.

If you take care of yourself,  you can be the best version of “you” for the children in your care.

HOW CAN YOU BE A STRESS SURVIVOR?

  • Prioritize and know your limits – You can’t do everything, and that is okay. Figure out what is important, and go from there.
  • Take a deep breath – You will be amazed what taking a few seconds to take a few deep breaths will do for you!
  • Take time for yourself – Write, read, meditate, or listen to music.  Figure out what works for you and make time for it.
  • Ask for help –You can’t do everything, and no one expects you to. Ask for help when you need help!
  • Learn more about the children in your care and their needs – The more you know and understand them the better.
  • Spend time with adults – You spend your whole day with young children; make sure you are spending time with adults as well!

Remember: it is okay to take time for you! Self-care is NOT selfish.

COMMIT TO MAKE A CHANGE

Try this: take a few minutes and think about ONE thing you can change over the next month to help decrease the amount of stress you experience. Write it down on a piece of paper and revisit the paper a month from now.

At the end of the day, the children in your care deserve your absolute best “you”.

Cover image by Flickr user (T)imothep, Creative Commons license.

Child Safety in the Home

Make your home safer for little ones

by Vanessa Vance, Early Learning Adult Instructor

BABY’S SIDE OF THE STORY

“Ooh! Look at that pretty stuff over there! I should check it out!” thinks Baby, making his way across the living room floor.

Mom is busy making dinner in the next room. ‘Silence is golden’ some say. In this case, silence can be dangerous! Little eyes spot things adults wouldn’t even give a second glance to.

Baby makes his way across the floor and glances up at the colorful glass vase full of flowers. “I just need to get higher,” he thinks. As Baby pulls himself up to the low table, he is startled by someone saying his name very loudly. He starts to whimper. “You scared me!” he says in his mind.

Mom walks over, picks him up, and comforts him. She didn’t mean to scare him, but she needed to alert him of the possible danger.

SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR HOME

As parents, we want to keep our children from harm. Oftentimes, we don’t see or think about things that need to be “baby-proofed” in our homes. One way to see things the way a child would is to get on her level.  It may seem silly, but crawl on the floor around the house, looking high and low for things that could be a hazard. Pay attention to:

  • Electrical outlets – do they have safety covers?
  • Glass and other breakable items – can they be placed somewhere out of reach or packed away?
  • Cleaning supplies – are there any under the bathroom sink? In the bathroom closet? On the floor behind the toilet? In the hall closet? Under the kitchen sink? In the pantry?
  • Tip hazards – are all cabinets, bookcases, stands or tables, secure and unable for baby to pull over on himself?
  • Small stuff – anything we may drop – from cookie crumbs to earrings – Baby will find them! Keep the small stuff picked up or swept up.
  • Sharp stuff – big sister doing a school project? Make sure scissors are put away as well as sharp pencils, pens, and even paper.
  • Tablecloths – It may be time to take off the tablecloths and table runners. Anything that hangs can look fun to play with.
  • Stove handles – Do you have a stove with handles on the bottom front? Make sure they have safety handles.
  • The refrigerator – Need an easy way to keep it closed for little ones – and easy for us? Place two non-permanent hooks toward the top of the fridge, one on the side and one on the door. Place a rubber band or string around both hooks. Baby can’t open, but magically, you can!

OTHER HELPFUL SAFETY RESOURCES

There are so many things to think about when a little one is around. By taking these first few steps, you have made yourself aware of other possible hazards to take care of.  Below are some website addresses to further explore safety in the home:

Cover image by Flickr user Lars Plougmann, Creative Commons license.